My Social Media Experiment

Thanks to verylifequotes.com for the image.

 

On October 19, I announced on Facebook that I was going to limit my time on social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter, and eMail to two 30-minute spans of time each day. Seventy-three people responded to that post and 30 folks commented, each one supportive.

Of course they were. Who on Facebook doesn’t want to spend less time?  It’s getting to be just like that “What smoker doesn’t really want to stop?” of a decade ago.

We know social media can be a time suck. We don’t need the data.  Our own experience tells us.

At least mine did.  I was at a point where I went nowhere without my phone. I’d bought my first cell phone for emergencies, but the only emergency use of the phone I can remember was when Woody and I rolled over in our GMC Sierra three years ago!

Instead, slowly — particularly once Smart Phones came out — the phone became a bigger and bigger part of my life. I’d be at supper with Woody or watching Netflix with him and my “Sherwood Forest” ring tone would go off.  Here it is.

It was a cool sound.  I’d laugh at the herald.  “Ooo, someone wants me,” I’d chuckle.  And, my curiosity being what it is, how could I not take a quick peek?

The trouble with Facebook (for me) was that there was no such thing as a quick peek.  I’d see who had just sent me a text or an email or tagged me in a FB post or a Tweet and then that would lead . . .  You know how that goes!

Thanks to psychiatryonline.it for the image.

 

More than the inordinate amount of time I was spending with my phone, it was the sense that my phone had become an obsession with me. I had to have it with me at all times. I had to be sure it was always charged. I had to learn the latest gimmicks with it. I had to have the best apps. I had to, I had to, I had to.

That was the part I wanted to detach from.  That “I have to” mentality.

And so, I made the decision.  For no particular reason I chose an hour a day, broken into two time slots.

 

Remember this?

 

First thing I noticed was that my phone kept calling me.  That Sherwood Forest ring tone had to go.  Then, I noticed how pulled I was to opening it when I saw the numbers in those little “bubbles” — you know, the number of new emails or the number of new FB posts show up on your Home Screen.  They had to go too.

So, I  went to my phone Settings/Notifications and stopped notifications for FB and email. I’d never had notifications turned on for Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Google Drive and Google Maps. But FB and eMail were umbilical cords to the wider world. I’d never before even considered turning them off.  But I did.

I also turned off notifications for the App Store, my Calendar, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger (why do folks use that as the new email?), and all my various News outlets. If I was ready to read the  mail, I’d open it myself and read it.

Second, I noticed quickly how selective I became in what I Liked, Shared, or Commented on while in FB. The clock was ticking, after all.  After email, I usually had about 10 minutes for FB; I needed to be much more discriminating in what I opened, what I read through, and what I commented on.

On Day 3, I began noticing what I was missing. For example, one of the FB groups I participate in, Women Writers Womens’ Books, does a “Friday Like My Page Day.” It’s a great way to have my FB Author Page seen and garner an additional 10 – 20 new Likes.  But, since reciprocity is key, opening and Liking many other author pages wasn’t going to work.  So, for the duration of this experiment, I stayed away.  I’ve written the leader to suggest the newbies raise their hands in some virtual way, but haven’t heard back from her.

Fourth, I tried a variation by breaking my two 30-minute spans into four 15-min segments.  That was a bust and I went quickly back to the 30-minute stretches. Fifteen minutes is simply not enough time to peruse never mind actually read any shared articles all the way through.  In fact, there were many days when I spent 45 minutes on social media rather than the mere 30; but I did so consciously.

Fifth, I became even more mindful of the pull my cell phone had on me. I tend to do social media on my phone; leaving my computer for writing. This awareness brought a new self-talk. I began asking myself

What’s my goal; what is it I want to accomplish by checking my phone?
Am I bored?
Do I have something I really want to share?
Am I eager to see who I might connect with?
Am I looking for a distraction? If so, from what?

That was eye-opening.

I realize this siren song will never be over for me. Like the alcoholic in recovery who never claims she’s “recovered,” I too will need to stay vigilant daily. Perhaps it’s more like a food addiction or codependency (defined here as a focus on relationships to the detriment of your own sanity) where one can’t just abstain. Food addicts still need to eat; they learn how to negotiate that minefield. Codependents can’t just become hermits; we are social animals after all.

Choice, conscious choice is key. As with social media.

Again, it’s a one-day-at-a-time negotiating process.  So, here’s my new process (when I remember) when I’m drawn to my phone.  It’s as simple as 1 2 3.  (Ha!)

  1.   I’ll stop and ask myself why. What’s the urge?
  2.  Then, I’ll name it: am I 

bored?
curious?
eager to see if my post got any traffic?

Do I need information that is only in the phone?

3. I’ll ask myself what would happen if I simply waited for ten minutes? Usually, by the time ten minutes is up, I’ve moved on to something else.

One unexpected result of this little experiment is that social media has invaded my dreams. I awoke this morning to the idea that “social media is the microwave oven of relationships.” Quickly, I  wrote it down.
And now, as I type it here, I’m no longer certain what it means. Was I thinking about how it speeds up the relationship process?  Makes everything go faster?  I truly don’t know.
So, I’ll turn to you. What do you think? Is social media the microwave oven of relationships? What’s your relationship with social media? 
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Actually, Plato was quoting Socrates when he wrote that. Thanks to AZQuotes for the image.

19 Responses

  1. Nurken Aubakir
    | Reply

    This could’t be better time for this universal issue. I, for myself, too, get caught up with the social media. Is it obsession? I, certainly, believe so. It’s taking up a lot of my time (if not all) lately. And you really need (or do you?) to check all of them constantly, the facebook, instagram, VK page and the list goes on. Is there a pill? Because I would like to get some. Well, I know it depends on you and you only but it’s out of hand sometimes. GUILTY!
    Love the blog!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Nurken. Thanks for starting us off from Kazakhstan.

  2. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Anyone who clicks on today’s post can identify with the push/pull of social media. I’ll go for the phrase of its being the microwave of relationships. After all I would not have met you – in person, twice – had it not been for our blogs.

    I have no pesky notifications except for WordPress and I don’t remember when I activated that. I met some high school and college friends on Facebook, a good thing. But I try to limit my time there. Somehow the algorithms on FB keep showing many of the same people over and over (not you!). Because that’s rather tiring, I lose interest and log off.

    You have your finger on the pulse of timely issues, Janet. Thanks!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Our Un-Mystery Trip: Cumberland IslandMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh yes indeed. There are many positive aspects to social media. I’d not sell nearly as many books as I have were it not for FB and the many FB groups I’m part of. And I’d not have added so many wonderful people to my life. I too have found old high school friends and love to stay in touch with old neighbors too. Still, that “push pull” is always there. What’s that they say about owning a boat? It’s a deep dark hole into which you pour money? (in spite of all the wonderful things you can do with a boat). It’s the same with social media — a deep dark hole into which you pour time. In spite of all the wonderful . . . . Awareness, that’s all I’m asking for myself at this point. Staying mindful.

      Thanks so much for adding your voice, Marian.

  3. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    I suppose I’m a bit of social media junky. For blog posts, as you say, about the authors’ group you’re in, you have to reciprocate (which is only fair, of course). I tend not to look at FB or Twitter so much on my phone, so it’s mostly something I do when I’m taking a break and at my computer already. Though, as you say, it’s easy to get sucked-in. Still, I also see articles on important topics (either from friends or posted by NPR and other sites), as well as keeping up with friends and family. FB is how I’ve learned of recent deaths of family member and friends, too. So I would not want to totally disconnect. I do have to limit myself sometimes though. 🙂 All my work and work contacts come through my email, which I check on my computer. So if I’m away from my computer, I don’t check e-mail.
    Merril Smith recently posted…Skeleton Trees: Tanka TuesdayMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I never considered doing the reverse: social media on my computer rather than on my phone. I’ll give that some thought. I write my blog posts and replies from my computer usually, like now. But for those visits during the day . . .

      Something to chew on . Thanks Merril.

  4. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    In the last couple years social media has made us angry people. Too much political and hateful jargon on here. I am trying very hard not to share political stuff—everyone must be seeing the same things I am so let them read it themselves. I also fly by anything with trumps picture on it so I can try to keep my sanity. Ilove going on vacation as that is when I really disconnect.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I know what you mean Susan. It’s easy to tap into everyone’s angst, which just magnifies our own. I support your decision to keep your sanity. Good choice. 🙂 Are you home from your latest vacation? Great photo with Rosalie.

      • Susan Jackson
        | Reply

        Yes, home again—happy hubby. I had a geat time with my niece and her boyfriend and my childhood friend. It was great to take the extra time to go by and see Rosalie. She is incredible and has been so active in her life until she broke her upper leg and then in PT shattered it so she is now house bound and it does depress her. She said she doesn’t really get visitors, lives with her daughter and has a caregiver. She reads constantly and I took some books that I had doubles of to her.

  5. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I like your observation, “social media is the microwave oven of relationships.”

    I don’t use my phone for social media because I can’t stand typing on the itty-bitty keyboard. So for me, social media is a conscious, sit-down-at-my-laptop decision. And I make that choice three times a day, each one immediately prior to one of Willa’s three, 2-mile walks. The walks are the perfect antidote to clear the social media “haze” one can feel after diving into that pool.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Pathway to PublicationMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      And, if you happen to be on social media longer than expected, you have a built in timer as I imagine Willa is good at letting you know the clock is ticking. What a great system. You should write a book with all your various systems . . . oh wait, you’ve done that haven’t you. If your new one is half as comprehensive as the last one, it’ll be a knock out.

  6. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    hmm . . . a microwave? Perhaps. It’s quick and convenient, reduces one’s “cook time” exponentially, and can definitely get “heated” in a hurry. On the flip side, it’s rarely as good as something home-cooked, is sometimes messy, and often isn’t very nutritious at the end of the day…

    Yes, social media can be highly addictive — by design, of course. ‘So easy to get sucked in, especially the real-time comments, “likes,” and notifications, etc. It can be a definite time and energy sucker. Yet, at the same time, it’s great for so many things — keeping in touch with people, staying up to date with news, even connecting with like-minded people you might otherwise never get to know. I suppose, like most technology, it’s a mix of good and bad, and depends on how you use it. Finding the right balance can be difficult, though.

    This past year, I’ve mostly weened myself off Facebook. It simply became too hard to keep up with. The toll has been not keeping up with some people I’d like to keep up with, since so many people solely rely on Facebook for their communications. Still, it’s mostly been a positive development, freeing up more time for myself. On the downside, I’ve gotten more sucked into twitter — not posting so much, but seeing what goes by. It’s a great source for news and commentary, although it’s often snarky and negative, and probably not the best place for someone like me, who’s faith in humanity is already under siege. I do post photos somewhat regularly on instagra, since I enjoy photography, and I like the non-political environment there. The hard part, with most of it, is keeping up with what others post. As Merrill noted, sharing in the world of social media is a two-way street.
    Tim Fearnside recently posted…The Other Men and Women Who Fought and Died for FreedomMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Finding that balance between the pluses and the minuses is the key, isn’t it? Thanks for taking my little microwave metaphor a bit further. I see one could really have some fun with it. “Heated in a hurry” made me smile. 🙂

  7. L. E. Carmichael
    | Reply

    I am struggling with this so much, partly because social media is easier than the real work I need to be doing. But I suspect there are also physiological things going on. I haven’t checked to see if there are any studies, but I have a feeling that getting that like or comment creates the same shot of dopamine that lights up the reward centres of the brain in smokers or addicts. Positive reinforcement is powerful!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m so glad you brought up the actual chemical changes (hormonal? brain waves?) changes that can occur. There have been studies on the relationship between social media and depression in teen agers. And just today Woody heard an NPR story about school grades going up exponentially with just one change: the teacher made the kids leave their cell phones outside the classroom. Google execs have gone on record (former execs actually) with just how they program to enhance the positive reinforcement aspect.

      I had thought to go down that path with this, but it’s a long one. I like much better that you brought it in. Thank you, Lindsey.

  8. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    You certainly have nailed the social
    media dilemma, Janet. I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I love the connections I’ve made but hate the incessant pull to check it out. Sometimes, I just stay away to give myself a mental break from all the noise. But it does take a conscious effort to stay away. Thanks for addressing another timely topic.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ah, that Love-Hate scenario again. Yup. That’s why checking out my motives seems to have helped. That and never believing I’ve got it licked.

      Facebook also makes it harder if we go off it entirely. They reward FB users who are (1) on more often (2) more active when they are on (3) post photos (videos now are the new big thing FB wants to see) . I’m sure there’s a fourth. It’s quite the dilemma. Thanks for adding your voice.

  9. Frank V. Moore
    | Reply

    Yep. It sure can be a time sucker. But, as a full-time caregiver, it’s my main connection with the world outside my front door. My solution, or more accurately attempted solution, is to keep my cell phone on mute so I’m not distracted or sucked in by notification pings. My cordless landline phone (which has caller ID and audibly states who’s calling) has connectivity with my cell phone so I can answer cell phone calls — if I’m able and choose to. I also don’t use my phone for email or social media unless I’m away from home. My laptop is my device of choice for that. So, like Laurie, it’s a conscious decision to check email and FB. I tend to do that while eating breakfast and reading digital editions of news purveyors. Sometimes get a chance to check again at lunchtime. But it’s usually evening, after I get Rose settled in, before I get to respond to most email and spend much time on FB. Like right now, when I should be heading to bed.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Frank,

      I think the critical piece here is that “conscious decision” you spoke of. The only reason I went on this little hiatus experiment was because time on my phone was starting to feel obsessive. And I wanted to get back to making that conscious choice. I noted you were another who did not use your phone for social media. I’m still pondering whether that’s the route for me. I hadn’t really weighed the pros and cons of that one.

      Please give my best to Rose. My Christmas cactus could use her special touch about now. I do hope she can still tend to houseplants; I know they gave her much joy.

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